Amnesty and Electoral Outcomes

By Mark Krikorian, November 9, 2012

A friend sent these excerpts illuminating the link between amnesty and electoral outcomes, from Victor Valle and Rodolfo Torres, "Class and Culture Wars in the New Latino Politics", in Latino/a Thought: Culture, Politics, and Society, pp. 247-48 (emphasis mine):

To protect their families, jobs, and civil liberties from continued Republican-led scapegoating, California's Latino immigrants took advantage of a period of immigration amnesty, became citizens, and then voted in record numbers. Although Latinos remain underrepresented at the polls, the 1996 election results show that newly enfranchised Latino immigrants voted "at a rate exceeding that of the state's voters as a whole." ... Nativo Lopez, executive director of La Hermandad's Orange County branch, sees the emergence of the "postamnesty" Latino voter as a turning point in Southern California politics. The state's 1.7 million immigration applicants all became eligible to apply for [naturalization] at the end of 1995. After January, February and March 1996, these applicants became citizens in increasing numbers .... "Certainly," Lopez said in an interview, "organization was a part of it, not just La Hermandad, but many others spurring people on to obtain their citizenship, and then registering them to vote." La Hermandad takes credit for qualifying anywhere from 175,000 to 180,000 people to enter the amnesty pipeline. ... "In the Los Angeles INS district," Lopez said, "there are more than a half a million people waiting for citizenship. By the year 2000 that backlog will be eliminated," which will produce another surge in Southern California's Latino vote just in time for the presidential election. During the 1998 election cycle, eleven Southern California Latino Democrats, most of whom can be classified as pro-labor progressives, rode this confluence of demographic and political forces into the California State Legislature.